12/07/2002

Gay from China at the Chalet School (by Elinor M Brent-Dyer)

Elinor M Brent-Dyer was a prolific writer, best known for her series of over 50 books for teenage girls, about the Chalet School. I read them avidly in my teens, borrowing them all from my school library, and as an adult have collected many of them. They are pleasant light reading at any age!

'Gay from China at the Chalet School' (later re-titled 'Gay Lambert at the Chalet School' for the Armada version) is one of my favourites. Some of the Chalet School books can seem a bit samey, but this one - along with several others - stands out from the crowd. It begins with the arrival of Jacynth Hardy at the school. Her aunt - her only living relative - prepares for a major operation, and feels that Jacynth needs to be away at boarding school.

Gay Lambert, one of the slightly older girls, befriends Jacynth, discovering that they are somewhat kindred spirits who share a love of the cello. Gay takes lessons at school but Jacynth can't possibly afford them - her aunt is not well off - so Gay offers to teach her.

Meanwhile, four of the Chalet School staff, including the two Heads, are involved in a nasty road accident. And, to add to the drama, Josette Russell, a toddler, and youngest daughter of the founder of the School, receives a very nasty scalding that endangers her life.

So a temporary head has to be engaged. Miss Bubb appears on paper to be ideal for the position, but turns out to be entirely unsuitable, with no understanding at all of the ethos of the school. She makes some highly unpopular changes in the school before Jo Maynard - aunt of Josette, and sister of the founder - takes a hand and writes to Miss Wilson, one of the Heads, who is almost recovered from the road accident.

Gay, meanwhile, is involved in quite an adventure, and Jacynth has to grow up fast. Very moving in places, some humour, and plenty of the loyalty and challenges that characterise this series.

Originally published in hardback, there were several slightly abridged paperback editions, and it's currently in print in the UK in a fasimile edition of the original. More expensive, but recommended for any serious fans. (The older editions are sometimes sold for huge amounts second-hand, too).

No comments: